A student at Trinity International University was charged with disorderly conduct and committing a hate crime on Tuesday for allegedly sending racially inflammatory letters to classmates in an attempt to convince her mother to let her withdraw from school.
The letters from 19-year-old African-American student Alicia Hardin resulted in officials evacuating 43 minority students from the Deerfield, Illinois school last Thursday as a precaution (see "Minority Students Evacuated From University In Wake Of Threats").
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Matthew Chancey told the Chicago Tribune that Hardin sent the notes because she was unhappy at the school and wanted to transfer to Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. "By writing these notes, we believe she wanted to have her mother believe (Trinity) was an unsafe environment," Chancey told the paper.
Hardin was given a $5,000 bond during a Tuesday morning hearing, in which the judge also set a 24-hour curfew, restricting her to her home except to leave for work and meetings with her attorneys. She reportedly admitted to officials on Monday to writing the three epithet-laden letters sent to three minority female students through the university's in-house mail system. The crime could bring up to five years in prison if she's convicted.
Chancey read one of the letters — which was received last Thursday and spurred the evacuation — in court on Tuesday. "I saw you in the chapel. ... I had my gun in my pocket, but I wouldn't shoot."
According to the Tribune, Hardin appeared confused in court and questions had to be put to her several times while she stood before the judge. She told the judge that she has been taking anti-anxiety medication and had a prior arrest record as a minor, when she was charged with battery and criminal damage to property.
"It's an agonizing moment for us. It's one that's unprecedented in the history of our university," Trinity President Greg Waybright said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "We're heartbroken by something like this happening within our community because we consider each student a member of our family." He said Hardin remains "in our hearts and in our prayers." University authorities have not decided whether to discipline Hardin if she wishes to continue attending Trinity, whose motto is "forming students to transform the world through Christ."